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Two papers comment on achievement gains produced by different management models

Here are findings from two independent, preliminary analyses of Philadelphia test score results presented this summer:

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

“Which Bets Paid Off? Preliminary Findings on the Impact of Private Management and K-8 Conversion Reforms on the Achievement of Philadelphia Students,” by Martha Abele Mac Iver and Douglas J. Mac Iver, Johns Hopkins University. Paper for American Political Science Association, September 2005.

The Johns Hopkins researchers looked at performance in math on the PSSA exam from 2002 to 2004 and compared District-run schools to schools run by outside managers, while controlling for poverty and for schools’ baseline achievement.

“The math achievement gains displayed by students between the spring of 5th grade and the spring of 8th grade were not greater in EMO-managed than in district-managed schools. Privatization has been an expensive experiment in Philadelphia. So far, (through Spring 2004) this experiment has not paid off by producing better math achievement in the privatized schools.”

“Learning from Philadelphia’s School Reform: What Do the Research Findings Show So Far?” by Elizabeth Useem, Research for Action, paper for American Sociological Association, August 2005.

The paper included a preliminary Research for Action analysis of gains in TerraNova reading and math scores from 2003 to 2005 at the 86 elementary and middle schools where there was private management or a District intervention.

“Using a rigorous standard of statistical significance, our analyses found no significant differences in gains in student scores or decreases in the percentage of students in the bottom quartile by intervention strategy … No one strategy to date stands out as being especially effective.”

“The verdict is still out as to whether the outsourcing of school management and other educational services will accelerate the pace of school improvement to a degree that justifies the additional costs.”